With​ ​so​ ​many​ ​options,​ ​investing​ ​in​ ​your​ ​first​ ​mountain​ ​bike​ ​can​ ​be​ ​confusing.​ ​At​ ​Hargroves Cycles​ ​we’re​ ​confident​ ​we​ ​have​ ​the​ ​MTB​ ​for​ ​you​ ​–​ ​but​ ​how​ ​do​ ​you​ ​know​ ​which​ ​is​ ​right?​ ​In​ ​the  simplest​ ​terms,​ ​the​ ​‘right’​ ​bike​ ​is​ ​the​ ​one​ ​that​ ​best​ ​matches​ ​your​ ​intended​ ​use.​ ​Crucially,​ ​it​ ​will  also​ ​be​ ​the​ ​correct​ ​size​ ​for​ ​your​ ​body​ ​(see​ ​here​ ​for​ ​our​ ​sizing​ ​guide).​ ​Get​ ​these​ ​two  things​ ​right​ ​and​ ​all​ ​the​ ​other​ ​details​ ​–​ ​suspension​ ​travel,​ ​geometry,​ ​wheel​ ​size​ ​and​ ​more​ ​–​ ​will  flow​ ​from​ ​how​ ​and​ ​where​ ​you​ ​ride,​ ​and​ ​your​ ​budget.​ ​Here’s​ ​what​ ​to​ ​consider…

PRICE​ ​–​ ​HOW​ ​MUCH​ ​SHOULD​ ​I​ ​SPEND?

Mountain​ ​bikes​ ​suitable​ ​for​ ​light​ ​off-road​ ​use​ ​start​ ​at​ ​around £300,​ ​and​ ​are​ ​great​ ​for​ ​occasional  adventures​ ​on​ ​loose​ ​but​ ​maintained​ ​surfaces​ ​such​ ​as​ ​towpaths​ ​and​ ​bridleways.​ 

However,​ ​for​ ​more​ ​dedicated​ ​trail​ ​use​ ​and​ ​longer​ ​days​ ​in​ ​the​ ​hills,​ ​it’s​ ​best​ ​to​ ​look​ ​at​ ​‘entry  level’​ ​machines​ ​with​ ​tougher,​ ​more​ ​specialist​ ​features.​ ​Hardtails​ ​(rigid​ ​at​ ​the​ ​rear,​ ​suspension  fork)​ ​typically​ ​between​ ​£400​ ​and​ ​£600,​ ​have​ ​aluminium​ ​frames​ ​with​ ​modern​ ​geometry​ ​and  design,​ ​and​ ​naturally,​ ​the​ ​further​ ​up​ ​that​ ​price​ ​bracket​ ​you​ ​go,​ ​the​ ​higher​ ​specification​ ​their  components.​ ​Check​ ​out​ ​the​ Specialized​ ​Pitch​​family,​ ​which​ ​includes​ ​Sport  and​ ​women-specific​ ​options.

At​ ​the​ ​upper​ ​end​ ​you​ ​can​ ​expect​ ​hydraulic​ ​disc​ ​brakes​ ​(more​ ​powerful​ ​and​ ​reliable​ ​than  cables,​ ​especially​ ​in​ ​the​ ​wet),​ ​air-sprung​ ​forks​ ​(lighter​ ​and​ ​easier​ ​to​ ​adjust​ ​than​ ​coil),​ ​and​ ​a  superior​ ​spread​ ​of​ ​gears​ ​that​ ​can​ ​cope​ ​across​ ​a​ ​wide​ ​range​ ​of​ ​gradients,​ ​conditions​ ​and  fitness​ ​levels.

At​ ​£1000​ ​and​ ​over,​ ​steel​ ​and​ ​carbon​ ​hardtail​ ​frames​ ​appear,​ ​along​ ​with​ ​high-level componentry​ ​from​ ​big​ ​names​ ​such​ ​as​ ​Shimano,​ ​SRAM,​ ​Fox​ ​and​ ​RockShox.​ ​These​ ​are  seriously​ ​capable​ ​bikes,​ ​with​ ​plenty​ ​of​ ​lightweight​ ​cross-country​ ​and​ ​harder-hitting​ ​trail  options​ ​to​ ​choose​ ​from.​ ​Check​ ​out​ ​the​ ​Scott​ ​Scale​ ​900​ ​range​ ​for​ ​the​ ​kind​ ​of quality​ ​design​ ​and​ ​equipment​ ​to​ ​expect​ ​–​ ​it’s​ ​a​ ​great​ ​example​ ​of​ ​high​ ​quality​ ​hardtails,  including​ ​aluminium,​ ​carbon​ ​and​ ​women’s-specific​ ​frames,​ ​and​ ​is​ ​representative​ ​of​ ​what​ ​we  see​ ​across​ ​the​ ​whole​ ​Scott​ ​MTB​ ​family.

Entry-level​ ​full-suspension​ ​bikes​ ​start​ ​at​ ​around​ ​£1,400​ ​and​ ​go​ ​to​ ​around​ ​£1,800​ ​– you’ll​ ​see  some​ ​in​ ​this​ ​guide​. ​The​ ​extra​ ​cost​ ​of​ ​that​ ​rear​ ​shock​ ​means​ ​other  components​ ​are​ ​necessarily​ ​lower-spec​ ​than​ ​an​ ​equivalent​ ​hardtail,​ ​but​ ​rear​ ​suspension​ ​is  less​ ​about​ ​extra​ ​comfort​ ​and​ ​more​ ​about​ ​grip,​ ​stability​ ​and​ ​speed,​ ​both​ ​while​ ​climbing​ ​and  descending.​ ​You​ ​can​ ​buy​ ​cheaper​ ​full-suss​ ​bikes,​ ​but​ ​weight​ ​and​ ​suspension​ ​control​ ​tend​ ​to  create​ ​a​ ​significant​ ​compromise.

At​ ​£2,000​ ​and​ ​above,​ ​expect​ ​quality​ ​air​ ​suspension​ ​with​ ​external​ ​adjustment,​ ​10​ ​or​ ​11-speed  drivetrains,​ ​accomplished​ ​hydraulic​ ​discs​ ​and​ ​frame​ ​geometry​ ​that’s​ ​well-tuned​ ​for​ ​your​ ​riding  (long,​ ​slack​ ​and​ ​low​ ​for​ ​aggressive​ ​trails,​ ​taller,​ ​steeper​ ​and​ ​tighter​ ​for​ ​XC).​ ​Also​ ​look​ ​for valuable​ ​elements​ ​such​ ​as​ ​remote​ ​dropper​ ​posts​ ​and​ ​Tubeless​ ​Ready​ ​wheels/tyres.​ ​Bikes​ ​in this​ ​category​ ​tend​ ​to​ ​have​ ​frames​ ​that​ ​are​ ​well​ ​worth​ ​keeping,​ ​and​ ​adding​ ​upgraded  components​ ​to​ ​as​ ​time​ ​goes​ ​by.

From​ ​£2,500​ ​more​ ​carbon​ ​fibre​ ​framed​ ​MTBs​ ​are​ ​available,​ ​offering​ ​blends​ ​of​ ​stiffness,  buzz-filtering​ ​compliance​ ​and​ ​low​ ​weight.​ ​From​ ​here​ ​to​ ​£3,500​ ​you’ll​ ​find​ ​a​ ​host​ ​of​ ​light,  strong,​ ​highly​ ​capable,​ ​up-to-the-minute​ ​full-suspension​ ​bikes​ ​covered​ ​in​ ​above-average componentry.​

SUSPENSION​ ​–​ ​HOW​ ​MUCH​ ​DO​ ​I​ ​NEED?

If​ ​you’re​ ​riding​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​towpaths,​ ​cyclepaths,​ ​bridleways,​ ​backroads​ ​and​ ​even​ ​gentle​ ​trail  centres,​ ​you​ ​don’t​ ​need​ ​much​ ​suspension​ ​travel:​ ​think​ ​100mm.​ ​These​ ​bikes​ ​sit​ ​at​ ​the  cross-country​ ​(XC)​ ​end​ ​of​ ​the​ ​spectrum.

A​ ​hardtail​is​ ​good​ ​for​ ​less​ ​aggressive​ ​riders,​ ​as​ ​simpler​ ​construction​ ​means  it​ ​will​ ​be​ ​lighter​ ​and​ ​fitted​ ​with​ ​better​ ​parts​ ​than​ ​a​ ​full-suspension​ ​bike​ ​at​ ​the​ ​same​ ​price.  Today’s​ ​27.5in​ ​Plus​ ​wheel​ ​sizes​ ​are​ ​a​ ​big​ ​benefit,​ ​as​ ​their​ ​balloon-like  2.8-3in​ ​tyres​ ​add​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​comfort​ ​and​ ​grip,​ ​without​ ​the​ ​extra​ ​weight​ ​and​ ​cost​ ​of​ ​rear  suspension.

If​ ​you​ ​plan​ ​to​ ​attack​ ​the​ ​harder​ ​trail​ ​centre​ ​routes,​ ​head​ ​into​ ​the​ ​woods​ ​looking​ ​for​ ​trickier  terrain,​ ​or​ ​hit​ ​the​ ​steepest,​ ​roughest​ ​stuff,​ ​you’ll​ ​appreciate​ ​some​ ​extra​ ​travel​ ​–​ ​and​ ​the​ ​longer  frames​ ​that​ ​come​ ​with​ ​it.​ ​Longer​ ​frames​ ​with​ ​slacker​ ​head​ ​angles​ ​(67​ ​degrees​ ​or​ ​less)​ ​are  more​ ​forgiving​ ​and​ ​controllable​ ​on​ ​fast,​ ​slippery​ ​or​ ​rough​ ​descents,​ ​at​ ​the​ ​expense​ ​of​ ​some  climbing​ ​agility.​ ​Look​ ​for​ ​‘trail’​ ​bikes​ ​with​ ​120-140mm​ ​travel​ ​on​ ​a​ ​hardtail,​ ​or​ ​up​ ​to  150mm-160mm​ ​on​ ​full​ ​suspension.

Note​ ​these​ ​are​ ​only​ ​guides,​ ​not​ ​rules!​ ​You​ ​can​ ​only​ ​really​ ​get​ ​it​ ​wrong​ ​at​ ​the​ ​extremes.  There’s​ ​no​ ​point​ ​pedalling​ ​around​ ​lots​ ​of​ ​extra​ ​weight​ ​if​ ​you​ ​never​ ​need​ ​the​ ​extra​ ​travel​ ​or  frame​ ​strength,​ ​after​ ​all​ ​–​ ​and​ ​you​ ​certainly​ ​won’t​ ​enjoy​ ​a​ ​flighty,​ ​twitchy​ ​XC​ ​machine​ ​if​ ​it’s​ ​out  of​ ​its​ ​depth​ ​on​ ​your​ ​favourite​ ​descents,​ ​no​ ​matter​ ​how​ ​easy​ ​it​ ​was​ ​to​ ​pedal​ ​up.

WHEEL​ ​SIZE​ ​–​ ​WHICH​ ​ONE​ ​IS​ ​RIGHT?

Bikes​ ​have​ ​generally​ ​settled​ ​into​ ​27.5in​ ​(650b)​ ​for​ ​aggressive​ ​trail,​ ​and​ ​29in​ ​for​ ​everything  else.​ ​It’s​ ​down​ ​to​ ​simple​ ​physics:​ ​smaller​ ​wheels​ ​are​ ​inherently​ ​stiffer​ ​for​ ​a​ ​given​ ​weight,​ ​and change​ direction​ ​more​ ​snappily​ ​too.​ ​It’s​ ​also​ ​easier​ ​to​ ​fit​ ​smaller​ ​wheels​ ​into​ ​a​ ​long-travel​ ​bike  without​ ​making​ ​it​ ​too​ ​long​ ​and​ ​tall.

While​ ​there’s​ ​a​ ​noticeable​ ​difference​ ​in​ ​feel​ ​between​ ​27.5in​ ​and​ ​29in,​ ​it’s​ ​another​ ​thing​ ​you  can’t​ ​really​ ​get​ ​wrong.​ ​So​ ​long​ ​as​ ​the​ ​bike​ ​itself​ ​is​ ​as​ ​XC​ ​or​ ​trail-oriented​ ​as​ ​you,​ ​wheel​ ​size​ ​is  personal​ ​preference.​ ​Aggressive​ ​29ers​ ​are​ ​also​ ​emerging.

Whatever​ ​your​ ​ultimate​ ​decision,​ ​you’ll​ ​find​ ​your​ ​ideal​ ​bike​ ​somewhere​ ​in​ ​the​ ​huge​ ​range​ ​at  Hargroves.​ ​So​ ​take​ ​a​ ​look​ ​now​ ​–​ ​and​ ​have​ ​fun!

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